Applying to college
College entrance exams
The tests primarily used for admission to colleges are the ACT and the SAT. The tests are used with your high school record to evaluate your level of academic knowledge.
Although some colleges consider your high school grades and class rank, these criteria are subjective, meaning that schools vary and teachers vary ó for example, two teachers judging the same English paper may give different grades. The SAT and ACT, however, are standardized. Colleges can use the same criteria to compare your scores with those of 2 million other students.
Which test should you take? Some colleges prefer the ACT, which is an achievement test that measures what you learned in school, and others prefer the SAT, which is more of an aptitude test that measures how you reason and your verbal abilities. Some accept either test. If you are undecided about where to go to college, you should consider taking both exams to keep your options open. Itís also good practice for you to take both.
Before you take the ACT, itís a good idea to brush up on your knowledge in each content area. For the SAT, the best preparation is to take timed practice tests. If possible, take the PSAT (a preliminary SAT) and discuss with a counselor how you can improve your scores.
Plan ahead. The registration deadline is about a month before each test, so you must schedule your test in time to get results back for college admission deadlines.
The SAT measures writing, reading and math skills. It has 10 separately timed sections and lasts about four hours. The first section is a 25-minute essay followed by six 25-minute sections and two 20-minute sections. These sections focus on math, critical reading and writing. The test concludes with a 10-minute multiple-choice writing section.
The range of your score is from 200 to 800 on each portion. Your total score is the writing, reading and math portions added together, and a perfect score is 2400. The national average score is 1509. The test costs about $45. You should request that scores be sent to colleges of your choosing. You may pick up an SAT bulletin, which includes a registration form, at your high school or a local college, or register online.
The ACT evaluates English, math, reading and science reasoning. The English test has 75 writing and reading questions to assess punctuation, grammar and usage, sentence structure, strategy, organization and style. The ACT Plus includes a writing test.
The 40-question reading test measures reading comprehension. Reading passages cover social studies, the natural sciences, prose fiction and the humanities.
The 40-question science test measures problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences, including skills in biology, chemistry, physics and the earth/space sciences. The test takes about four hours.
The national average score on the ACT is 21.1; the highest possible score is 36. The ACT costs $32. The ACT Plus is $47. You should request that scores be sent to colleges of your choosing. You may pick up an ACT packet, which includes a registration form, at your high school or a local college. You also may register online. For more information or to request a registration packet, call 319-337-1270.
Public colleges and universities in Texas are required by law to assess some studentsí reading, writing and math skills to ensure they have the academic skills to perform effectively in college. For example, some schools may use the Texas Higher Education Assessment (THEA) test.
Some students will be exempt from these tests. To find out more about assessment tests, ask your high school counselor or contact a local university or community college.
You may find it helpful to use preparation tools prior to taking admissions tests. Books, videos, computer programs and courses have been designed to help students be more successful in taking the SAT, ACT or assessment tests. These aids prepare you for the actual tests by letting you know what to expect; some provide practice tests. Ask your high school counselor for details.
SAT subject tests
The SAT subject tests are one-hour, primarily multiple-choice tests in 20 subjects. The tests, which cost from $9 to $20 (plus a $20 registration fee), measure knowledge or skills in a particular subject and your ability to apply that knowledge. Some colleges require one or more of the subject tests for admission or placement.
Advanced Placement tests
The Advanced Placement Program consists of 33 college-level courses and exams for highly motivated students in secondary schools. Students take the courses and the exams at their high schools, and those who pass the exams can receive academic course credit in those subjects when they enroll in college. Check with your high school to see if it offers AP courses in cooperation with the College Board.
Each test costs $86, a bargain compared to the price of tuition at most colleges. Ask your high school counselor about the program, find more information online or call 609-771-7300 or 888-225-5427.
College-Level Examination Program exams may allow students to ďplace outĒ of certain required courses in college by giving them credit for their existing knowledge. Anyone can take any of the 34 CLEP exams, which are usually taken on college campuses for $72. Students who pass an exam do not have to take the corresponding college course. Check with the college you plan to enter before taking any CLEP exam. You can find more information about the program at clep.collegeboard.org or call 800-257-9558.
The college application form
Your application, transcripts (grade report), class rank and entrance exam scores determine your acceptance to most colleges or universities. Some schools may also require an essay or references.
You can get applications by calling universities or downloading them from college web sites. You can apply to any Texas public university using the electronic Apply Texas Application. Your college application form will represent you to college admissions officials, so take the time to fill it out neatly, completely and correctly. Know the collegeís deadlines and complete your application in plenty of time.
Read all the instructions that come with the application, and follow them precisely. If you have questions, ask your high school counselor or call the college admissions office for clarification.
If you are not filling out an electronic form, type your responses or use black (not blue) ink since your application could be photocopied or converted to microfiche at the college. Carefully check your application for errors when youíre finished. Itís a good idea to have a parent or other adult double-check it. Be sure to send the application fee if required.
As part of the application process, you will need to request an official transcript, or record of your grades, from your high school to be sent to the college(s) of your choice. If you have graduated, your transcript will list your class rank and grade point average. You may have to pay a small fee for each official transcript; unofficial transcripts or photocopies are not acceptable because of the possibility of grade tampering.
Legislation provides that all Texas high school seniors graduating in the top 10 percent of their class qualify for automatic admission at Texas public universities.
For current information, check the UNT admissions website.